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The MummyThe Mummy on DVD

Ultimate Edition a Real Treat

by Jim Bray

Universal home video's "Ultimate Edition DVD" release of "The Mummy" isn't just a bandage solution to exploiting the DVD medium's potential. Instead, it's a fully fleshed out package collectors and movie lovers can really sink their teeth into.

Okay, enough with the puns!

This title is a perfect example of how Universal studios not only understands the DVD medium, but (as with its many other "Collector's Editions") knows how to give the audience the most bang for its video buck.

Sort of a remake of Universal's 1932 Boris Karloff thriller, the 1999 Mummy is less an out and out scare fest and more a tongue in cheek action flick with some reasonably scary moments. Look at it as "Big Trouble in Little China" meets "Raiders of the Lost Ark." And as such, it succeeds on both counts.

Brendan Fraser stars as Rick O'Connell, our "Indiana Jones-type" hero, and his characterization is indeed a broad one. He's joined by Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, with Arnold Visloo in the title role of Imhotep, a guy who really falls to pieces as the movie progresses, though he manages to pull himself together by the later stages.

The Mummy is a movie that really should be seen on as big a screen as possible, though of course that's limited by the TV you have in your home. From the opening shot, a gorgeous special effects extravaganza that's a perfect scene setter, the movie comes across as a big screen epic, even though the screenplay at times seems more like a Hollywood "B" movie - which isn't a criticism; some of my favorite films would qualify for that description. But Ben-Hur this ain't, even though it has the same type of megabuget production values.

The plot follows Fraser and his team's race to find the lost City of the Dead, site of rumored fabulous buried treasure. Of course it's also the location of a horrible curse featuring Imhotep himself and his mysterious powers and even more mysterious compatriots.

The whole movie is done tongue in cheek, but it works. And, while there are some reasonably scary moments, the movie never forgets that it's at heart an action/adventure flick.

The special effects are astonishing, from that opening shot right through the climactic battle against an army of the undead. The movie leaves you shaking your head in wonder at how they did it.

Fortunately, you don't have to wonder for long. Universal has loaded this two DVD set with oodles of extra material, and it's a wonderful and well thought out collection of goodies.

First of all, the second disc gives you a Pan&Scan version of the film, for those who can't stand those black bars above and below the picture. It's also featured in Dolby Digital 5.1, though you don't get the DTS treatment as you do on the anamorphic widescreen version that comes on disc one. There's also a full length documentary "Building a Better Mummy," which details the painstaking creation of the digital special effects at the "magic factory" of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic facility, arguably the best thing to happen to movie special effects in the history of Hollywood.

There's also a separate audio track commentary by directory Stephen Sommers and film editor Bob Ducsay, and another one featuring star Brendan Fraser, and a third one with other cast members. These commentaries are almost always fascinating glimpses into the workings of the minds of those who crafted the film.

You also get an introduction to Egyptology, including some history and maps of the region. And there's a section on creating the effects of specific scenes, from the original background plate to the finished footage, a few scenes that were deleted from the film (and which the film doesn't miss, fortunately), and of course the theatrical trailers. There's also a DVD-ROM component that includes cast and crew info and even a (rather Mickey Mouse) Mummy game. There are also screensavers and "electronic postcards."

And just in case you didn't catch the timing of the special new edition, Universal throws in some promo stuff for "The Mummy Returns," which hit theaters as this DVD was being released.

Cast/crew info is also available, as is stuff like screen savers, "script to scene" comparisons, a demo of the PC game spinoff, and Web links.

Even the liner notes for "The Mummy" are first rate. You get a four page blurb on the film's genesis, and a list of chapters and special features.

The audio/video quality are outstanding. Not so outstanding is the box, which features a strange, swingout thing to hold the first disc. It makes getting the liner notes out a real pain.

The Mummy, Collector's Edition, from Universal Home Video
125 minutes, widescreen (2.35:1)/Pan&Scan, Dolby Digital
Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannay, Arnold Vosloo
Screen Story by Stephen Sommers and Lloyd Fonvelle & Kevin Jarre, Screenplay by Stephen Sommers,
Produced by James Jacks, Sean Daniel, Directed by Stephen Sommers.


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Updated May 13, 2006